- A law compelling newly employed police officers in Tanzania to remain single for five years is proving counterproductive, according to some government officials.
Harith Bakari Mwapachu, the minister for security and public safety, said recently that the police force was under siege from AIDS and, unless checked, could compromise the country's security.
"We must do everything within our power to minimise the impact of the pandemic on our security forces," he said in the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, adding that the government could be forced to review the law.
Statistics compiled by his ministry in three administrative regions showed that most HIV-positive officers were single and at their most productive age.
According to the minister, part of the reason for the police bearing the brunt of the disease was low HIV/AIDS awareness and entrenched macho behaviour. Traditionally, police officers are feared by the general population, and have been accused of taking sexual advantage of their position.
"The government is lining up HIV/AIDS awareness programmes targeting security officers, who are increasingly falling victim to the pandemic. We must stop it to save the resources the government has invested in their training and maintenance," Mwapachu commented.
Dr Mary Nagu, minister of justice and constitutional affairs, recently told parliament the prohibition against marrying early was originally intended to equip policemen with a sense of duty to the country.
Mwapachu said the worst hit sections of the force were officers deployed to frontier districts in the south and west of the country, where people trafficking, mainly refugees, was high.
The government provides housing to only 6,000 policemen out of more than 35,000; the vast majority had to rent accommodation in civilian residential areas, which created avenues for risky sexual conduct.
Besides embarking on HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns, which could also cover the army and the paramilitary Field Force Unit, Mwapachu said the housing shortage would be given top priority in the 2006/07 financial year.
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